Newly-appointed United States Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Wednesday dialed their Indian counterparts Rajnath Singh and Ajit Doval to discuss defence cooperation and global challenges.

India and the US also affirmed their commitment towards strengthening bilateral ties. The Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement that the two NSAs spoke about the need to collectively address the challenges in the post-coronavirus era.

The foreign ministry added: “NSA Doval underscored that as leading democracies, with an abiding faith in an open and inclusive world order, India and the US were uniquely positioned to work closely on regional and international issues including combating the scourge of terrorism, maritime security, cyber security and peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.”

Austin and Singh also spoke about regional and global matters. “During the telephonic talk, they reaffirmed their commitment to work together to strengthen the multifaceted India-US defence cooperation and the strategic partnership,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

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Meanwhile, the US Department of Defence said: “During the call, Secretary Austin emphasised the Department’s commitment to the US-India Major Defense Partnership, observing that it is built upon shared values and a common interest in ensuring the Indo-Pacific region remains free and open.”

The US defence secretary noted that the two countries had made good progress in their defence partnership, and promised to sustain it.

The telephone conversations marked the first official contact between US President Joe Biden’s new administration and Indian leaders. Biden is also likely to speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The White House had said last week that Biden valued America’s successful relationship with India and looked forward to continuing it. The US government added that Kamala Harris becoming the vice-president made the bilateral ties even stronger.

Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the US on January 20. Harris made history by becoming the first woman vice-president. She is also the first person of Jamaican or South Asian descent to occupy the position.